The Malta Independent 8 May 2021, Saturday

Developer claims San Blas ‘public land’ is his; enforcement notice issued, fine imposed

Malta Independent Monday, 30 June 2014, 14:18 Last update: about 4 years ago

Gozitan devoloper Joseph Portelli said this morning that he owns a field in which works were carried out over the past few days – a case that was revealed by The Malta Independent on Sunday - and insisted that he has no intention to develop the area.

However, in the exclusive story published on Sunday, this newsroom showed that works were underway in a field next to the picturesque beach, which, according to eye witness sources, could either be turned into a camp site with a kiosk or an exclusive beach area for the hotel which Mr. Portelli owns.

“We have been camping here for more than 25 years. We just installed a gate and a metal frame to put an awning on.”

Mr Portelli said he bought the land six months ago. “People had taken over the area. Three years ago it went up for sale and I gave them the chance to buy it. When they did not, I purchased the land myself.”

Mr Portelli insisted that he did not cause any damage to the area but, on the contrary, he claimed to have repaired rubble walls that had been damaged.

According to a Lands Registry map, the area Mr Portelli claims to own is public land. Private land is denoted by shading.

He also insisted that some time ago, the Lands Department registered the beach area but the plans as drawn up had overlapped onto his land. He said he had cautioned the department over the incident.

The developer said that he is well aware of MEPA rules and regulations and would never breach any planning laws. However MEPA records show that the same developer had past issues with MEPA on other projects. He also insisted that he wants San Blas to remain untouched.

Following the story published yesterday, Mepa sent enforcement officers on site and an enforcement notice has been issued after their investigations. The notice means that no other work can continue on the said piece of land.

In a statement later, Mepa said that development works at a Grade 3 scheduled area adjacent to San Blas Bay which were being carried out without planning permission have been stopped.  

Earlier today, MEPA’s enforcement officers have inspected the site and resulted that an iron gate and a metal frame were assembled on site. Moreover, it was noticed that maintenance of the existing rubble walls took place and concrete was utilised to install a number of metal poles, Mepa said.

During MEPA’s inspection, Mr Joseph Portelli declared to be the sole owner and that the site in question was a private land. He also stated that works carried out last week were meant for ‘personal use’.

Since, the site in question is listed as Grade 3 Area of Ecological Importance, the officers immediately stopped the illegal work and an enforcement notice (ECF 139/14) together with a daily fine (maximum fine of €50 per day) was issued against Mr Portelli.  

The authority said it will continue to monitor the site to ensure that the removal of all illegal structures following a method statement approved by MEPA.

 

Environment Minister Leo Brincat earlier said that if the allegations were proved right it would be tantamount to "environmental rape".

'MEPA CEO did not come here'

Contrary to what sources told this newsroom, Mr Portelli denied that he had visited the area along with MEPA CEO Johann Buttigieg. Calling him ‘Johann’ on first name basis portelli said, “I know him. Everyone knows him as MEPA CEO. But I have never seen him here.”

 

In reply to scathing statements by environmental NGOs, Mr Portelli said they should go to the area to see with their own eyes that no damage has been done.  

In a statement this morning, Din l-Art Helwa condemned any illegal development at San Blas bay in Gozo. “It is ironic that while MEPA's enforcement directorate was recently applauded for issuing enforcement notices on similar developments at Golden Sands and Paradise Bay, no such action was taken on this illegal and unacceptable land clearing activity of a scheduled ecological site despite, according to yesterday's report in the Malta Independent on Sunday.”

San Blas should also not be leased out for private parties which exclude its use by the public, and leaving behind an unsightly mess as has happened on various occasions, said the NGO.

Mepa officers on site

 

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